September 21, New York City
by Mimi Bluestone
“Sometimes you can grab the zeitgeist by the scruff of the neck and shake it a little.” Those words come from “A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change,” an article by author and climate activist Bill McKibben that appeared in Rolling Stone in May.
McKibben is a guiding spirit behind the fossil fuel divestment movement. His Rolling Stone article invites everyone who cares about our planet and its climate to show up in New York on September 21st for the People’s Climate March.
The march is timed to put pressure on world leaders, who will be gathering at that time for an emergency summit meeting called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Moon wants to push the world’s leaders to take meaningful action on the climate disaster that is already engulfing our planet.
The world’s leaders, of course, have other fires to put out (or, more misguidedly, to fan). But the more people who show up on September 21st, the more reason for leaders and governments to listen.
THE PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH is truly a people’s movement, a campaign endorsed by hundreds of participating organizations. You can see these groups listed on the Climate March website, but the list is a work in progress that’s moving so fast that the posted list is never quite up to date. Still, checking the list gives you a sense of the breadth of who’s involved.
It’s a movement that’s connecting all the dots and refusing to be divided into opposing camps. It’s a movement that’s putting to rest that old canard, that environmentalism is a job killer. Labor unions were a vital presence at a kickoff event on July 31st in Times Square: there were unions representing electrical workers, nurses, janitors, food workers, teachers, transport workers, hospital workers. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) leader Christopher Erickson told those gathered that “as a father, I recognize the need to act.” And as his union’s business manager, he recognizes the potential for green jobs building renewable energy facilities.
It’s a movement that insists that social justice must be a key element of any movement to fix our climate crisis. Eddie Bautista of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance told the crowd that “climate change affects everybody but not all the effects are evenly felt.” Low-income people, he noted, suffered the worst effects of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
OF COURSE, ENVRIONMENTAL GROUPS are part of the coalition, including the Sierra Club, representing 2.4 million members, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Also participating: numerous affiliates of 350.org, a group that is spearheading efforts to convince college and retirement funds to divest themselves of any fossil fuel stocks. The number 350 refers to the need to decrease carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.
Plans for the People’s Climate March drew nearly 200 artists to the Brooklyn Museum on July 31st for a “Sporatorium” intended to generate seeds of creative resistance for the march and beyond. Artists and musicians are envisioning a Seachange Flotilla that will float down the Hudson from Troy and circumnavigate Manhattan; a Honeybeelujah of singing, swarming beekeepers; and a platoon of scientists in white coats marching to the slogan, “Out of the labs, into the streets.”
September 21st will be a truly glorious day of protest. But The People’s Climate March wants to be more than a moment. It intends to build a movement.”
Do your part. Go to the People’s Climate March website. Bring everyone you know on September 21st. It’s time to give the zeitgeist a really decisive shove.
Mimi Bluestone is a teacher and writer who lives in Brooklyn.